As the Whole30 community continues to grow and spread worldwide, we’ve been receiving stories from people all over the world who are changing their health, habits and relationship with food through the Whole30 program. When we say these stories are coming from everywhere, we mean everywhere: Japan, the United Kingdom, Djibouti, Jordan, and Argentina. (Read to the very bottom for some of our favorite Whole30 international social media acounts!)
When Kristina’s Whole30 success story hit our in-box here at Whole30 HQ, we were smitten both by her non-scale victories and by her tales of cooking in Croatia, which sound downright magical. While she doesn’t have access to the convenient Whole30 Approved items we have here, she has ample opportunities to eat fresh, seasonal, local food. (Think: olive oil pressed fresh by her neighbor; veggies that come from the next yard over; handmade sausage; chickens raised by her aunt.) Her story is a delightful peek into a Whole30 experience halfway around the world.
In Kristina’s Own Words
I was born in Edmonton, Canada and spent most of my childhood living internationally due to my father’s work. My parents are both from Croatia, and after they retired they moved back to their home country. They urged me to visit, so I hopped on a plane and made my way over, completely unaware of the pivotal turn my life would take during this trip. It was there that I met a boy and fell in love. We were married and had two beautiful daughters. I decided to stay; Croatia was my new home.
I grew up eating a traditional Mediterranean diet, even in Canada. My mom is a typical Croatian woman; she cooked our family’s meals three times a day, plus snacks and desserts. We never had take-out and we only dined in restaurants on special occasions. Growing up with such a wonderful model provided me the tools to feed my family healthy home cooked meals as well, something in which I take great pleasure.
Over the past few years, I regularly faced more work-related stress and began to slack on cooking most meals at home. Convenience foods began cropping up in Croatian grocery stores and I opted for ready-made, pre-cooked meals that I would quickly “touch up” at home. Over time, I grew crankier, heavier, and tired.
In February I noticed a post from a Facebook friend living in the U.S. that mentioned something about completing a Whole30. I liked the post and decided to learn more. I found my way to the Whole30 website and read everything I could — I was intrigued. I bought It Starts with Food and The Whole30. A researcher at heart, I also Googled criticism of Whole30 because I wanted to understand both sides of the coin in order to make the most informed decision. I decided to go for it and I started planning. I announced my start date, joined the forum, and subscribed to the newsletter. I read It Starts with Food three times over the course of the first week, and I used The Whole30 as a manual and go-to source for the remaining weeks.
Preparing Whole30 meals the Croatian Way
My meals were simple and easy to prepare, as many “exotic” ingredients are not available in Croatia. I focused on building my plates around protein, vegetables, and fat, just as like the Whole30 Meal Template recommends. Living in a small country, we are lucky to have most of our food grown and raised within a few miles of our home. Our meat comes from cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys that our neighbors, family members, or local butcher raise on their own land. Our fruits and vegetables come from a neighbor’s garden, and as a rule in our family, we only eat seasonal fruits, vegetables, and ingredients that are native to our region. Our fish comes from the Adriatic Sea on the Croatian coast where we have a weekend home, and the fishermen in our village always have plenty of fresh fish for us when we arrive.
As for cooking fat, we only use olive oil. Our friends own beautiful olive groves and our family helps them pick olives and press the oil every year. We also attend an annual “kolinje,” a day when the pigs are butchered and the meat is cut up, sausages are made, fat is pulled out and stored, and bacon is prepared for smoking. We participate in the entire process and it provides a wonderful supply of proteins and fats for our family. When we visit my great-aunt, she catches chickens in her yard and kills, plucks, and cleans them for us to take home.
Our neighborhood butcher takes our weekly order on Thursdays and prepares the order from the cows he butchers on Wednesday. We know where our food comes from and how these animals were raised. We feel very fortunate! I loved eating such fresh, delicious food every day. During my program, I continued to cook non-compliant side dishes for my daughters and husband, and I made birthday cakes, cookies, and homemade pasta. It didn’t bother me; I felt great and I was happy with my meals, so indulging my family was a piece of cake (pun intended).
Taking Charge of My Health
By the end of the 30 days, I started to notice many improvements in my health and well-being. My nails grow much faster, my hair is stronger and less oily, and my chronic joint pain in my shoulder and ankle has decreased significantly. On top of that, I have more energy during the day, sleep soundly at night, my moods are more stable, and I have more patience. As a bonus, I lost 13 pounds. My relationship with food is now exactly that — a relationship. At a time in my life when so many things are insecure and not within my control, it feels really good to take charge of one very important part of my life: my health.
Using my Whole30 success as an example, I’ve begun to spread the Whole30 word among all of my friends and family. Many of them are reading, researching, and making the choice for themselves whether to try it or not. During my program, I had plenty of support from friends and family who prepared special meals for me when I visited them and called me with messages of support and motivation every few days. Thank you for your books, your words, and your advice! You can now add a Whole30 success story from Croatia to the long list of others who have found great joy in your program.
Other Members of Our International Whole30 Community
Recently we’ve enjoyed connecting with Whole30’ers all over the world via social media and blog posts. Here are a few of our favorites:
“One of the biggest things people on Whole30 forums struggle with is the time involved in preparing things at home, from scratch. I already do that by necessity, easily spending a few hours a day in the kitchen or scrounging around the market or food stalls to gather what we need.”
– Djibouti Jones
For me, Whole30 was more of a lifestyle change. I have to say my relationship with food has changed drastically. I’m more in tune with what food does to my body, and I eat to live, not live to eat.”
– Fify Lowen
“It has changed my relationship with food and made me more careful about what I decide to eat and when. It has made me stop to think before eating something that is off plan, just because it is there. It has made it effortless to look at some foods and not even desire them.”
– That’s a Falafel Lot of Hummus
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